The game was all Oregon State from the beginning. As if the Boise State Broncos forgot to get off their bus for a football game. Last Saturday night, in front of a pretty good sized crowd at Reser Stadium, the Beavs took apart the Broncos. Winning the contest that went well into the night, 34-17. The game got relatively close in the third quarter. As the Broncos were able to cut the lead down to 10 points. But, Oregon State tightened the screws and extended the lead, sending Boise State back to Idaho. As season ticket holders, it was opening weekend for us. Traveling from the Seattle area down to Corvallis, Oregon. About a five-hour drive if traffic remains in our favor. However, the journey has stretched out to six hours, at times even ticking a bit longer. These early season trips are some of the most fun. With the fall weather still warming the afternoon and evening. Corvallis has always been a pretty place to spend time, as the leaves turn different colors. Eventually, falling to pepper our walking paths. For the month of September, we get to worry less about the rain and cold, that will surely take hold. Making the games in October and November, at times, feel more like marathons of survival. As we tremble under layers of clothing, hoping the rain holds off just a little longer.
Once south of the Portland area, clear of the cities southernmost suburbs. The interstate is bordered with farmland, stretching out to the mountains in the distant. Until driving through the Salem area. Which, interrupts the scenery, the miles of farms begin again on the southern side of the city. When the exit for Corvallis is finally reached. Another highway runs toward the ocean for about ten additional miles. The story begins unfolding when that exit ramp has been navigated. Dropping down onto the highway leading into Corvallis, my eyes always go to the sky. The town is bordered on its western side with a range of mountains. The hills, separating the college town, from the beaches of the Pacific on the other side. Leaving just a forty-five-minute drive out to Newport, Oregon. Those mountains provide a good land mark to understand the approximate location of the city, and in turn, the stadium. I look to the sky, just in front of the hills to get an idea of the type of weather set to greet us. It might be raining as the freeway is exited, but the area around the stadium has broken cloud cover, signaling the game might be dry. But, there wasn’t an ounce of concern as the exit was taken on Saturday evening. The blue sky stretched as far as the eye could see and the temperature hung in the low-seventies. It was going to be a great night for football.
Taking another left-turn, on the way into the city. The road elevated onto an overpass. All of a sudden traffic came to a complete stop. Sitting on the two-lane road, I could see the car of a police officer with lights flashing. The traffic was stopped and I couldn’t see an explanation for the stoppage. We sat for a few minutes without any apparent reason for the hold-up. I continued looking around, feeling like something was being missed. Until, driving up the onramp to my left was a huge white charter bus. The bus was followed by another bus looking identical to the first. Then, another one followed behind the first two. Chills went up my back upon realizing the buses were filled with the Boise State Broncos. They were driving by police escort to the stadium and we just happened to get stopped, as the path was cleared. It was another one of those cool things I have only watched on television. To run into the opportunity to see it in person, was pretty neat. We followed behind, as they took the same right turn that our route required. Losing them at the next signal. Their path headed toward the stadium and ours toward the hotel in town. It was only another couple minute drive and we pulled into the parking lot. After getting settled into the rooms, our next stop was having some dinner. Before long, we were headed down the mile long walk to the stadium.
Reser stadium was going to be different this year. They are in the process of rebuilding the west side of the stadium. Meaning much of the crowd would be sitting on the east side of Reser, where our seats have always been located. The added number of people would add to the challenge of being at the stadium. Possibly, making it more challenging for me to move around during a game. But, being the first game of this unusual circumstance, the challenges remained to be seen. With cerebral palsy, I find it can be difficult to move in crowded areas. The uptick in the number of people was noticed right when we entered. The main concourse was obscured by more traffic, though nothing too disruptive. I found my way past the lines of fans waiting to get refreshments and arrived at the escalator. Riding it up to the second deck has always been one of the exciting things about going to a game. The two escalator rides are some of the steepest I have ridden. But, they provide quick views into the stadium, and allow the views of areas outside the stadium. After exiting the escalator at the top, the walk to the seats was again full of added people. Leaving me with the feeling that getting something to drink or eat on my own, might be challenging. I made it through the crowded upper concourse and into my seat without much challenge. But, I knew getting down the steps, with the added number of fans, would be the more difficult part.
I found upon settling into my seat, Reser stadium didn’t only look different, it felt different. With the west side being built, it looked like a shell. Huge beams were in place to support the seating that would eventually be placed on top. The press boxes looked to be temporary structures, placed on the landing of the lower section of seats. For all the people seated on our side, the stadium had an empty feel. Throughout the game, I couldn’t really put my finger on why it felt empty. There were tons of people all around me, but the emptiness on the far side felt eerie. One of the strangest things happened any time the referee made a call. He would look to the press box on that empty side of the field. Giving the impression he was speaking to no one. We could hardly hear what he had to say, as the speakers on our side pointed to the side under construction. Something I had never paid any attention to was the sound I received at the games, came from the other side of the field. All of these new realities had settled in by halftime. So, I decided to venture down to the concourse, wondering how it might look. Leaving the seats, I have to cross to the other side of the aisle, making sure to grasp the railing with my right hand. These railings are broken up, so they provide stability for a few steps, before I have to leave one behind, and reach for another. Luckily, our seats aren’t too high, there are two railings, leading me down the steps. With the added number of people this year, I have to be extra cautious about when I step out into the aisle. The steep staircase and the elevated traffic, cause extra nerves. Which, only makes navigating the exit more challenging.
After carefully making my way down the stairs, I found a wild scene. Not only were the lights on the concourse not working, there were people everywhere. Like nothing I had really experienced at any other game. As I walked through the crowd of people, trying to locate a straw, I was careful not to run into anyone. There wasn’t a straw in sight, so I cautiously made my way back to the seats. Noting, my ventures down to the concourse might require extra thought this year. The third quarter felt like it took an eternity, as Boise State climbed their way back into the contest. Only to be run away from when the fourth quarter arrived. The wind picked up a little in that second half. Forcing me to reach for the half-zip I had brought in case the temperature dropped. The extra layer kept me warm, as the Beavs pulled away in the fourth quarter. We got up to leave with about four minutes remaining in the contest. Using the stairs to exit the stadium. They can be kind of steep, making them a little challenging to navigate. However, leaving slightly early makes the process a whole lot easier, with a less crowded stairwell. The reduced number of people provides more space for me to use. Making sure I’m walking next to the hand rail to provide stability. If there are large numbers of people around me, I could get bumped into, or find myself in a position where I can’t reach the hand rail for stability. These things cause fear for sure and could also lead to the loss of balance at a scary moment. I’m always thankful for the willingness to leave a game a little early.
The walk back to the hotel was guided by light from our phones. Satisfaction running through my body with the Oregon State victory. Getting the Beavs off to a good start, for the season. Though, pings of disappointment came up unexpectedly, slightly salting the win. I have always liked Boise State. From the amazing Fiesta Bowl, they played in 2007. Taking down the highly decorated Oklahoma Sooners. A game full of unbelievable moments and trick plays, I could never have imagined. The Broncos were a powerhouse for years, notching undefeated seasons. Playing in a non-power-5 conference, they were the underdog that kept rising up. Demanding that people around college football take notice. So, though I wanted my beloved Beavers to send them back to Idaho with things to work on, I was hoping for a fun game. Hoping they would show some fight and provide a test. That hope didn’t come to fruition last Saturday night. I’m left wondering what I really saw in the first game of the year. Are the Beavers going to be good this year, or did the Broncos fail to get off the bus? I guess the next couple weeks will paint a better picture. As we watch the college football season begin to unfold. The games will get colder and the rain will begin to fall. Leaving me dreaming of the warm games in September.